Thursday, March 15, 2007

The curious case of the 'J Boyz'

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Similar is the case with money. Too much of it, too soon and this kind of thing - just waiting to happen.

Last Friday the Juhu police picked up 6 teens from the 'J Boyz' gang for spraying graffiti on a car. Nothing artistic about it, these kids were just marking their 'territory' with the trademark 'J Boys' signature.

Apparently this has been going on for some months. Several cars have have been vandalised, and so have the walls of building compounds.

Indian Express reports: “For the past two months, we have been receiving complaints from local residents about graffiti being painted on the walls of their buildings and on their cars. Sometimes the windows of the cars are also smashed. The culprits sign off as A-1, J-Boys, RB (Rule Breakers) and so on, which are the names of their gangs. Most of them are still in school or college, and are from well-to-do families,” says Senior Police Inspector Pradeep Shinde of the Juhu Police station.

“These boys leave home around 2:30 am, and drive around in their cars. They get high on beer and start damaging property. When we question them, they say they did it just for the craze and thrill of the act".

38 boys had been rounded up on Feb 24. But complaints continued. And so the saga may have stretched on, if not for simple bad luck. The J Boys happened to spray the official car of minister of state Baba Siddiqui.

Minister saab must have barked,"Pakdo saalon ko" and it did not take long to catch the fellas red-handed.

Anyhow, the boys were let off after being lectured and paying a very small fine. 15 year old Jackie 'Soda' Thakkar told the TOI,"It all started 6 months ago. We were bored, but we have now realised our mistake. It will not happen again."

His mother added that her son was misled into joining his friends 'because he had a car and knew how to drive'. The boys were apparently in the Thakkar family car when they were caught spraying the graffiti. It was 2.30 am.

This was a month after Jackie's mother received a call on her son's cellphone from a policeman. Members of a 'rival gang' (A1) had tipped off the police after they were rounded up for spraying cars.

Mrs Thakkar stated to the TOI: "I told them Jackie was at home and could not have been involved. Before the phone call, I'd never known about these graffiti gangs."

Okay - but how come a 15 year old was out on the loose after she got to know about it? And why is he allowed to take out the family car in the first place?

The blame game
The saving grace of the entire incident is that these boys only used aerosol cans. No knives or guns. But boredom is a hungry animal. Easily satiated. The 'gangs' had already progress to small acts of violence like smashing windshields of cars.

Yes, these are not hardened criminals. But why are they attracted to this kind of stuff in the first place? One father accepts the impact of what the kids have done and says he will work on 'channelising their energy in a positive direction'.

But I think his assessment of the situation is somewhat blinkered."They are all good kids", he states."But unlike our times, there are no open spaces to play. So, you find them cooped up in coffee shops. These issues should be addressed."

The issue that needs to be addressed is simple: stop giving them so much cash that they can hang around in coffee shops and blow a hundred bucks a day. If that's the kind of lifestyle they want, let them earn it!

The Indian parents' plaintive "I want my child to have everything I did not' approach is at least partly to blame. Their other constant refrain is: 'I want what's best for my child'.

Now these two wants are not necessarily mutually compatible. An 'everything I want I get from dad' upbringing leaves nothing to strive for. Nothing to 'achieve'. It all comes to you so easily, ab bacha hi kya?

Yes, young people have a lot of nervous energy. They want to conquer the world. The middle class teen channelises the energy into studies - he has no option. Na daddy ka koi business hai, na jaydaad. So the 14-17 period is spent in swotting over board exams and entrance exams.

That produces its own ill-effects and stress (another issue for another day!) but leaves little time or inclination towards graffiti and vandalism. No such gangs in Matunga, Chembur or Bhandup. All the action is in Lokhandwala, Versova, Bandra - the 'new money' suburbs.

J Boyz, A1, RB, YWA (Youth Warriors Association) - whatever name you like - lead a life with less emphasis on academic achievement. In the long run they will probably attend decent colleges, but riding on their parents' money. Australia, NZ, UK, America - choices are aplenty - if you have a chequebook to match.

That leaves them with a lot of spare time and nothing much to do. And too much spare cash to go with it. I'm all for a reasonable amount of pocket money. But not giving an under 18 an add-on credit card (many such examples! one company even pushed such a product to parents not long ago). Giving access to your car keys and not caring where they are at 2 in the morning? Definitely courting disaster.

Some of the parents have said they will take their kids for counselling. That's good, but I hope the entire family does some amount of introspection.

Secondly, don't jail these boys but a heavier fine needs to be levied. Rs 1000 is what a J Boy might easily spend in a single day. Usey fark hi nahin padega. Additionally, punishment could be given in the form of community service.

Lastly, like Western countries, we need to instil in our teens a work ethic. Never mind how rich your parents are, you must earn a portion of your pocket money. Whether that means flipping burgers at McDonalds or becoming a shop girl at a local boutique.

Leave aside the kids slogging for competitive exams, enrolled in intense courses like medicine or immersed in extra-curriculars. For the rest - who comprise the majority - 'studies' and 'attendance' won't be affected by working. Most study in the last one month and don't attend anyways.

I'm not saying this will be a solution to adolescence itself - that's always a rocky phase. But there are merits to instilling a work ethic. As opposed to hearing a statement like, 'My mom is my ATM'.

Understanding the value of money is the best gift any parent can give. Perhaps the most difficult but most necessary one for a well-to-do Indian parent.

23 comments:

  1. Right said Rashmi....
    Juhu and other suburbs are an indicators of what is to come in other areas....

    Indians would be buying 700, 00000 cars in 2007 ( Mira Kamdar, planet India. That is a whole lot for these folks to vandalize. That triggered an enterprernial (sp?) spirit in me, and I am thinking to move to India and start car repair/windscreen repair shop.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. ashmi, I think these 'kids' need to spend one night in the slammer. Just one night mind you, with a video camera on them so that there is proof they were not harmed. A copy of the tape then gifted to each of the parents to remind them what will happen if they dont 'educate' their children.

    Secondly, if any child aged 17 or lower is caught with a driving license, the senior inspector at the issuing RTO should be instantly demoted to a lower rank and stripped off his perks. I wouldn't even mind one night in judicial custody. The car of the parents should be seized and crushed.

    If that don't work, nothin' will.

    ReplyDelete
  3. (sorry for spelling your name wrong!)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Rashmi...Am not a good blogger,but like to read u r blog..

    Neways ...U said i right ..but by cutting their pocket money ..it might not reduce their antics,but in turn might make it worse ..They might think of stealing and find some way to get money ..U know how it is to be a teenager ...

    U see someone doing cool..and u also want a try that..

    I want be surprised if I see increase in number of such gangs after this halla gulla ...

    ReplyDelete
  5. you are right! most often parents do this to give a uncompromising upbringing, but its a mistaken notion and needs to checked for its repercussions.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rashmi,

    I think vandalizing is just one of the problems/ ills affecting the teens of today...
    The DPS scam to me was shocking not because of the content but because of the teens involved.. I have now seen really scary things in the cyber city - Hyderabad.. late night street races for 2 wheelers [I think some thing similar happens on our Mumbai's Bandra fly-over]

    As you analysed, lot of cash + nothing constructive to do is a lethal combination!

    Rashmi, bahut kuch hota hai ameero bachon ke teen years main... who then become killers a-la BMW/ Salman and what have you..

    ReplyDelete
  7. wonder what has happened to sensitivity in u guys.. suggesting a day in custody, harming them more...hello just pause and look at ur own kid/younger siblings before doing that.

    ur 5 yr old spills something in a mall, how about a half day custody for the kid?

    Address the problem and in a way that suits the region, dont bring in a solution that does not fit.

    Let the school/colleges know about the incident..do not write about these gangs as ganging up is the most inherent need of adolescence. Remember, peer pressure, need to be recognised ....

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rashmi,

    What u wrote is probably only one teeny meeny paat of the truth. Why blame the rich kids and money for everything there are an equal number of such incidences in the poor strata.

    The core reason for teens turning into "criminals" is not necessarily money but excessive freedom and an unhealthy family atmosphere.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Rich Kids+with no brains+too much time= Your Post.

    This is a similarphenomenan that happens in US where kids in gangs beat up people and take videos of the same and post it on blogs/you tube..wonder when thats gonna happen here :/

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  11. hmmm prettty truee!!!! niceee!!!

    hey btw chk ma blog!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. So true, I went to a private school in Juhu where there were some who had little ambition but a lot of spare cash... Also, the corrupt system is to blame where the rich believe they can bribe their way through anything and will not have to worry about law enforcement agencies...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi rashmi....
    Am a regular reader of your blog.I think u have been posting more frequently these days which is very good.Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Rohit, terrible analogy.

    "ur 5 yr old spills something in a mall, how about a half day custody for the kid?"

    1. Spilling something is NOT the same as intentionally vandalizing roperty that belongs to others and causing a significany monetary damage. If I had spilled something in a shop when 5, I would be quietly reprimanded by my parents. It would have helped me remember that I should be more careful.

    2. These kids are 15. One year short of being allowed to drive gearless bikes. Three years (or is it six) less than being allowed to drink beer. Whether you like the rules or not, this is LAW. You break it, you face the music.

    3. If even a five year old throws a tantrum in a shop and causes something to break, the parents HAVE TO PAY FOR IT. And in return, the kid HAS TO BE PUNISHED by either denying him a treat or making him/her study extra - anything that drives home the point that you hurt innocent people either physically, mentally or economically, you will be held responsible.

    "ganging up is the most inherent need of adolescence."

    'Ganging' up is not the same as being anti-social.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Rashmi
    i think you're being very conventional and stereotypical here. a) In any society / any era there always were rebels and yes most of them did things that were anti-social & against the law, but that was teir essence - they were rebels because they didnt want to conform ! How boring would it be if everyone behaved properly...
    b) i think the solutions suggested would not solve the issue but aggravate it - it can make them even more rebellious !
    c) my views on parenting are different. we have to teach them the right values when they are young. we have to spend time with them and shower love / affection (not money). we have to make them our friends, they have to trust us. i would never allow my son to drive before he was of legal age. but i would also like to think (and hope) that he would understand ! Also, i would not have a problem with him (or even my daughter) being out at 2am. if thats what they want to do, its only natural and I wanted to do the same when I was their age and i dont think policing them is going to help - make sure they have the right values and learn to let go. its like when they learn to ride a bike - its a very fine art - you have to know when to let go and also to know how close/far to stand from the bike so that you can catch them if they stumble. our instinct is never to let go as we're protective, but they would never learn to ride if we kept holding on !

    ReplyDelete
  16. i dont think in the west kids work part-time to earn pocket money because their parents want to teach them work ethics. I think its more because people want to be more independent their. In India when parents give pocket money to their kids(including rich but not super rich), they tend to sometimes ask their kids howcome the money was spent away so easily and quickly. This is something that a western kid would not want to listen at all and hence he/she goes out earning their own cash. Ofcourse, it results into a positive sideeffect. But, i think these kind of vandalising and small damage cases happen more often in west. Here it is just picking up.

    Aditya,
    How would a child less than age 17 be caught with a driving licnece. If he has licence he would have age more than 18 on that and to get that licence he would also have some fake documents. So how do u know this kid is less than 18 when he does has a licence?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Rashmi
    We have a very healthy debate going on here. You seems to know the pulse of your readers.

    Also you seems to be writting more "frequently" these days - Pangaa ye ke hum ko padhna Padta hai...aur samjhan bhi padhta hai...Locah hai!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ankur,

    a simple check on 1) Birth Certificates and 2) School records would do the trick.

    The Birth certi is falsified for the driving license, which is arond ten years after the child has entered school. Hence the birthdate given to the schools is different. In either case, you catch a student in 10th standard who is driving, the cat will be out of the bag.

    ReplyDelete
  19. THANKS FOR YOUR BLOG! IT REALLY GAVE ME ALL THE INFO I WAS TRYING TO GET... I'LL COME BACK!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Rashmi - well written ! Community Service is the way out. An example - since they love painting (!), why not "attach " them to a local contractor and have all the municipal schools in Juhu painted. The cost of that paint would have to be shared by the parents of the kids . It would be a positive "punishment" and would get those poor bmc schooled kids , school rooms in colours other than bilious blues and greens. Oh and since these teens loved to be out at 2am, the painting could be from 10 pm - 3 am - rest assured, boredom would be a thing of the past !
    Shilpa

    ReplyDelete
  21. you written really something good and it a lesson to laern for all the teeny peaple from heeba khan

    ReplyDelete
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